The court filing marked one of the Justice Department’s bluntest statements to date of its view of the Capitol breach, in which members of a mob supporting President Donald Trump stormed barricades, assaulted nearly 140 police officers, and forced the evacuation of a joint session of Congress meeting to confirm the results of the 2020 election.
Hodgkins’s sentencing, scheduled for Monday, could set the bar for what punishment 100 or more defendants might expect to face as they weigh whether to accept plea offers by prosecutors or take their chances at a trial by jury.
About 800 people entered the building, U.S. officials have said, with more than 500 individuals charged to date and charges expected against at least 100 others.
About 20 people have pleaded guilty, and one misdemeanor defendant has been sentenced to probation.
In Hodgkins’s case, Sedky cited FBI Director Christopher A. Wray’s testimony in March to the Senate that the problem of homegrown violent extremism is “metastasizing,” with some actors growing emboldened by the Capitol riot.
“That attack, that siege, was criminal behavior, plain and simple, and it’s behavior that we, the FBI, view as domestic terrorism,” Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 2.
Sedky also asked U.S. District Judge Randolph D. Moss of Washington to recognize prior court findings that though individuals convicted of such behavior may have no criminal history, their beliefs make them “unique among criminals in the likelihood of recidivism.”
Hodgkins pleaded guilty on June 2 to one felony count of entering the Capitol to obstruct Congress, a common charge being used by prosecutors. Unlike other defendants, he was not accused of other wrongdoing or involvement with extremist groups, nor did he enter a cooperation deal with prosecutors. Under advisory federal guidelines, he could face a prison sentence of 15 to 21 months.
Hodgkins poses an intriguing example for defendants against whom prosecutors have threatened to seek enhanced domestic terrorism penalties, lawyers said. Such enhancements, if found to apply, could more than double a defendant’s guidelines range or otherwise increase recommended penalties, although judges would have the final say.
In Hodgkins’s case, prosecutors did not ask the judge to apply the enhancement, even though they wrote Wednesday that his conduct met the definition of violence “calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion.”
Instead, prosecutors said a “midpoint” sentence in Hodgkins’s existing range was appropriate, but still urged Moss to consider the importance of dissuading future acts of domestic terrorism.
Hodgkins has asked for a below-guidelines sentence of probation. His attorney urged Moss to follow the example of President Abraham Lincoln’s planned approach to the defeated South after the Civil War, before he was assassinated.
“Today, this Court has a chance to make a difference,” Tampa attorney Patrick N. Leduc wrote, asserting that America now is “as divided as it was in the 1850s” on racial and regional lines.
“We have the chance to be as Lincoln had hoped, to exercise grace and charity, and to restore healing for those who seek forgiveness. Alternatively, we can follow the mistakes of our past: to be harsh, seek vengeance, retribution, and revenge, and continue to watch the nation go down its present regrettable path,” Leduc said.
Lawyers familiar with the Capitol probe have said the case illustrates how prosecutors are taking a carrot-and-stick approach in plea talks, threatening to hit some defendants with tougher sentencing guidelines calculations while showing some flexibility for those not accused of any violent conduct in a bid to resolve cases short of trial.
For example, another Jan. 6 defendant pleaded guilty Wednesday to the identical charge as Hodgkins. However, Josiah Colt, 34, of Idaho, faced a sentencing guidelines range three times as high, 51 to 63 months, after admitting that he came armed to Washington and was with others accused of violently interfering with police. Colt, however, entered a cooperation deal, implicating two men he was with in plea papers and agreeing to aid investigators in exchange for a recommendation of leniency.
Several defense attorneys in the probe privately called prosecutors’ tactics draconian in some cases, saying they are threatening years of prison time for individuals not charged with violence and giving them little choice but to face trial.
In plea papers, Hodgkins acknowledged that he was recorded holding a red, white and blue “Trump 2020” flag and wearing a dark Trump T-shirt as he stood next to the Senate dais on Jan. 6 as other people shouted, cheered and prayed. They included a shirtless man wearing horns and face paint at the vice president’s chair. Hodgkins wore eye goggles at one point and pulled latex gloves on and off in a bid to aid another rioter.
The government said it recognized that Hodgkins “did not personally engage in or espouse violence or property destruction,” accepted responsibility early, and has taken “significant steps” toward rehabilitation.